Pipe up – 25 November 2016

“Gender diversity and the skills shortage could both be boosted by encouraging women into trade careers.”

The UK’s trade industry is struggling through a skills shortage which, according to estimates, requires one million new engineers and technicians to fill vital roles. Arguably a largely untapped skills resource in trade is women, who make up only about 6 per cent of the UK’s current trade workforce. Therefore there is massive room for improvement in both the gender diversity of trade industries and in the skills shortage – both of which can be boosted by encouraging women into these careers.

One of the best ways to attract interest from female candidates is to ensure the many benefits involved with trade careers are fully communicated to these potential workers. One such benefit is often a strong ­salary or earning potential, which is a key reason for choosing a trade career for around 60 per cent of females working in the industry.

Aside from remuneration, there can be an element of flexibility in some trade roles, which can be a positive factor for many women, particularly those who are perhaps looking to get back into work after maternity leave or who want more control over their schedule.

There are also opportunities for women who would prefer to be self-employed, which seems to be a popular benefit because 80 per cent of women working in trade careers tend to be their own bosses, and on average employ two other people.

With so many appealing aspects and roles available, it is important that business leaders and training bodies take more steps to encourage further female applicants into the sector and begin running recruitment drives that consider and communicate the job benefits to women, as well as men.

Collaboration is also key. Businesses could consider teaming with organisations that help to promote the opportunities for women in trade, such as the Women’s Engineering Society, to maximise recruitment campaigns. Advertising potential roles in conjunction with specific women-focused events, such as National Women in Engineering Day, could also boost efforts.

Trade industries are traditionally very male-centric, so without creating an environment that is both accessible and welcoming to women it is unlikely we will see a great change in the level of gender diversity. But attitudes in trade workplaces are starting to improve; 42 per cent of women in the industry say they have noticed progress.

To make sure this change does not stagnate, the industry needs to ensure that women entering this career path feel confident and comfortable in the working environment. Boosting the numbers of women in the industry will in turn help the skills shortage.